Curtis Fuller was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1934. He came to music late, playing the baritone horn in high school and switching to the trombone at age 16. Detroit, at the time, was the breeding ground for an astonishing pool of fresh, highly individual talent.
Milt Jackson and Hank Jones had already gone to New York and made their names. But coming of age in Detroit in the early fifties were Fuller, Donald Byrd, Elvin and Thad Jones, Paul Chambers, Louis Hayes, Kenny Burrell, Barry Harris, Pepper Adams, Yusef Lateef, Sonny Red, Hugh Lawson, Doug Watkins, Tommy Flanagan and many others who would make the mid- decade migration to New York and eventually international recognition.
In 1953, Curtis left the local scene to serve his two-year stint in the army, where he met and played with Cannonball Adderley and Junior Mance among others. When he returned home, he began working with Yusef Lateef's quintet. The Lateef quintet came to New York in April 1957 to record two albums for Savoy and a third produced by Dizzy Gillespie for Verve.
Word of Curtis's talent spread rapidly around New York. Although he initially came under the spell of J.J. Johnson and listed Jimmy Cleveland, Bob Brookmeyer and Urbie Green among his favorites, Fuller came to New York at the age of 22 with a unique style and sound.
In May, after being in town for about a month, he recorded with Paul Quinchette and made his first albums as a leader: two quintet albums for Prestige with Sonny Red featured on alto. Like the Blue Note debuts by Kenny Burrell and Thad Jones the prior year, he used mostly transplanted Detroit players.